Long, wet winter of woe for our golfers as Storms batter Somerset and beyond
PUBLISHED: 08:30 07 March 2020
It has certainly been a long winter for those who depend on decent weather to allow their business to operate to its full potential.
And golf clubs up and down the country are suffering after almost six months of almost constant rain, with those in Somerset no different.
Andrew March is the PGA professional and director of golf at Brean Golf Club and chairman for the West region of the Professional Golfers Association.
He has experienced first hand the effect that one of the wettest winters in recent history has had on both his golf club and many others in the South West and said: "The rain started in late September and basically has never stopped!"
This has caused no end of disruption at Brean with numerous competitions rearranged and costing thousands in lost green fee and golf society revenue not to mention lost sales over the bar in the Country Club clubhouse.
In almost 25 years in the industry March has never known such a prolonged spell of poor weather before, adding: "It seems like every weekend is being washed out at the moment and with daylight short in the winter months these are the times we rely on to bring in some money to our business.
"Currently we have lost around 20 days to the wet weather since the beginning of November when the course has been closed and probably just as many again when the course has been open but the weather has been so bad no one wants to venture out.
"Brean Leisure Park owner Richard House has said he cannot recall the land that the golf course sits on being as wet as it is since the early Eighties!"
This, in turn, puts pressure on greenkeepers everywhere as they have been unable to carry out planned maintenance programmes from last Autumn and even basic day-to-day tasks of keeping greens cut is proving difficult, as is keeping courses open for play.
Temporary greens and tees, shortened layouts and trolley bans have all been utilised at times in an attempt try and give golfers something to play upon.
"I'm sure the greens teams all over are just as frustrated as the golf professionals are with Mother Nature decreeing their winter work plans are rapidly heading out the window," added March.
"They want the golf courses to be open for play as much as club members do but are having to admit defeat through no fault of their own many times this winter." With golf a habit for many, after so many weeks where the weekly 18 holes has been replaced by doing something else, March fears this period of weather will have an impact for far longer than when the golf courses just simply dry out.
"Golf clubs rely on the revenue brought into the club by members and visitors through the Pro Shops and more importantly through their food and beverage spend in the clubhouse," he said.
"With this very lacking over the past five to six months it will be a very worrying time for many I'm sure."
Brean is usually fairly free draining with the multiple rhynes running through the course, but the deluges of the past few months has even tested that system to the limit.
Even though the sluice gates are open the water just cannot escape quickly enough, leaving the water table so high that even a moderate shower can see puddles reappear on fairways.
Only those blessed with a more sand-based surface, plus a few others with free draining land, have been able to remain open for play but even the links at Weston have seen two of their holes closed for many months which is almost unheard of.
"One local greenkeeper told me he'd had rain fall onto his golf course for 24 consecutive days during February which never gives it a chance to dry out!" said March, who organises weekly Winter events for Gloucester and Somerset PGA around the two counties between September and April.
So far they have been fairly lucky, losing only three of 22 event, but many that have gone ahead have seen either a reduced number of holes or various rules implemented to accommodate play in wet weather.
March said: "The recurring pattern of the wet weather is that it has occurred in the latter part of each week. With Wednesdays our usual day of competition we have escaped on more than one occasion, but courses we have played have still been very wet with players often commenting on completion of their rounds that they have never ever seen that courses so wet."
It all seems a far cry from the opening event of this Winter season in mid-September at Brean which was contested in glorious sunshine, two weeks before the rain came and the weekly 'on or off' calls began coming through.
March said: "The hope amongst all golf clubs is that this awful weather must change for the better soon, especially now as we have now officially reached Spring. Let's hope for a good Summer, we all need it!"